Thousands of practitioners around the world nowadays use knowledge that sits on the frontier of conventional science with fantastic results, but they are still considered more “witty” than serious professionals. In psychology, they are those who work with family constellations, hypnotherapy, shamanism, past-life therapies, among others. Their patients recognize the effects of the treatments, but more conservative people, even their colleagues, take them less seriously. Likewise, reports of anthropologists who have used shamanic methods, such as ayahuasca or wachuma rituals, to discover where to find mummies and sacred places of the people they study, are relatively common. Testimonies of great artists and scientists saying that they “received” the insights to compose their works, are also frequent. For materialist science all this is nonsense and quackery, even if the practical results are relevant.
For post-materialist science, however, these discoveries and cures are explained using a notion that non-material reality allows a kind of connection that is independent of space-time. This can be better understood from concepts such as quantum entanglement, morphic resonance and the collective unconscious, among others. Without going into details about these concepts, which can be easily found on the internet, as well as in the academic literature on the subject, the question that is intended to be discussed in this text is: why is there so much resistance to discuss advances that point to a larger scientific analysis?. Since it is known that science is a limited and constantly changing way of thinking, why is the openness toward new explanatory models so difficult in some intellectual circles? And why are the new paradigms, on the other hand, so well received by the general public?
The most common reactions to phenomena such as those mentioned above, or about episodes of near death or mediumship, among others, are: “this is not scientific”, or “one cannot – or should not – mix science and spirituality”. The fact that these phenomena are linked to the ancestral knowledge of native peoples from various parts of the world further disturbs the discussion. After being oppressed, these practices became more and more respected, but as cultural phenomena and not as modes of understanding and acting on the world. What is the conventional science if not a form of understanding and acting on the world that uses a rational basis coming mainly from European culture? This European rational science has been so deeply embedded in cultures across the globe that it is not just European intellectuals who react to other understandings of the world as “unscientific” This reaction is still widespread, although less intense in the East.
The idea that matter is energy is something deeply connected to the ancestral cultures of the five continents, but it was the Europeans, once more, who somehow “rehabilitated” it as rightfully scientific, from the discoveries of quantum physics at the beginning of the 20th century. The notions of chi for the ancient Chinese, axé for traditional African people, prana for the vedas of India, Pachamama’s spirit for the Andean people, among others, explain, in their own way, how the spirit energises life. When quantum physics says something similar, traditional science — which cannot give up quantum discoveries as that would mean they would have to give up computers, cell phones, and a thousand other things — wants to restrict the use of that idea to the operation of these devices, and not to the understanding of the world. The fact that intellectuals like Fritjof Capra, Amit Goswami, Gregg Braden and Rupert Sheldrake perceived the relationship between these ancestral cultures and the new quantum-holistic-systemic-ecological paradigms of the new science, made them internationally known, but also seen as “less scientific “.
The dogmatism of materialist science says that everything is based on matter, that consciousness comes from the brain, that love comes from hormones, that everything is extinguished with the death of the body, among other “absurdities” from the point of view of post-materialist science. There is therefore a struggle, in the old style of the patriarchal world, in which only one truth exists, which is established by the most “apt”, and in this struggle to establish the truth and to own it is worth every effort. This effort today can be argumentative, even if it is biting and demoralizing, like calling a professional non-serious, or saying a coherent and consistent argument about subtle aspects of the world is non-scientific. This was already a deadly struggle, by force, in the case of the European colonizers against the shamans of the colonized countries, or the Inquisition against the “heretics” during the Middle Ages. Millions of heretics and shamans, coincidentally mostly women regarded as witches, were executed or burned in the bonfires, in the most dire times of the imposition of the European culture.
The relationship between science and spirituality, which stands out in the new paradigms, finds an interpretive basis, among others, in Amit Goswami’s work called “Physics of the Soul”, or in Fritjof Capra’s “The Tao of Physics”, but it is in the traditions of knowledge, as said before, that it finds a particularly important echo. The growing appreciation of ancestral cultures is understandable in a world in which people lose their sense of existence through the speed of change, the invasion of technological apparatus in their lives and the absurd futility of consumerism. The superficiality of the current answers about “who we are” — a consumer? a profile on social networks? a successful professional? — has no comparison with the answers that the ancestral wisdom, whether it is Chinese, Andean, Indian or African, etc., gives us, conceiving a connection between matter and spirit, offering a meaning for life.
The new paradigms, both as a worldview and as the basis of the organization of science, are better suited to the characteristics of the world today. There are still important resistances, especially in the intellectual environment, but they will be gradually overcome. The new paradigms accept plurality and validate the idea that in order to better understand reality, several approaches are necessary, several truths can coexist, including some defended by the old paradigm, which may continue to be valid. As reality becomes increasingly complex, more multicultural, less hierarchical — beginning with human relationships within the families themselves — only cooperation between different thoughts can lead to a more relational and deep understanding of the world, to a vision of the whole. It is no coincidence that these approaches are much more natural to the intelligence seen as feminine.
Classics of scientific understanding, like Karl Popper, in arguing that the refutation process is the greatest weapon to get to the truth and that scientific discussion is a real struggle in which “arguments are like swords”, reveal an overly competitive view of science. Like Popper, many other authors developed epistemological arguments (how do we know what we know?), ontological ones (what is the nature of the being that knows?), hermeneutical arguments (how do we interpret what we read in the world?) that have aided human thought and science to evolve. In the light of the new paradigms, however, one realizes that often these authors start from a worldview that limits this evolution by imagining the truth as a unique fact to be disputed. More cooperation would contribute greatly to science, as well as to economics, to relationships, and to life in general. Understanding the role of patriarchy as a concept of domination in the construct of scientific thought opens us to a new connection between science and values, between science and politics, between science and the meaning of life. The new paradigms, more inclusive and bearers of more plural rationalities, more feminine, more ecological, more multicultural, are realizing a true revolution in the scientific thought. In the field of history, a book that stands out in this revolution of thought was written by Riane Eisler and is entitled “The Chalice and the Blade”. In it, the author points out how patriarchy has shaped reality and the hegemonic view of the world and how only the fact of perceiving it can bring new epistemological, ontological and hermeneutical perspectives.
It is interesting to note also that, at least in the human sciences, articles and books are increasingly valued with a plurality of references and not only with quotations from the same consecrated authors from the European and American academy. When one sees bibliographies with references that contain male and female authors, with diverse continental origins, different historical periods and from multiple disciplinary origins, a more comprehensive and innovative argument is generally perceived. To the extent that the penetration of a broader paradigmatic view is strengthened, texts with these characteristics will tend to be more scientifically respected simply because, by opening perspectives, they enrich the understanding of the world, which is increasingly becoming more and more complex.
It is also common for authors based in the new paradigms to be more “rooted” in the real world and not just theoretical and to be more concerned with the democratization of knowledge. Thus, they seek to write in a more understandable way, translating their disciplinary terms into words accessible to a wider audience, including using images and videos to communicate. By being sensitive to everyday human challenges and avoiding excessive abstractions, they dialogue better with ordinary people who use their personal experience as a reference for understanding existence and thus feel more comfortable to read and comment on those texts. This democratization of the experience of intellectual debate brings to science a new and aggregating aspect that recognizes the need for knowledge to emerge from its ivory towers, to enrich itself through dialogue with other forms of knowledge, avoiding elitism.
It’s expected that new visions of the world from the new paradigms would need some groping in the dark in the early days. Even Einstein questioned today’s enshrined principles of quantum physics. Only the freedom to think, to research and to experiment can consolidate new worldviews. That is why, recently, several documents have been signed by respected scientists asking for greater openness in the scientific environment so that the new paradigms make their way to open horizons, to test their premises, to research freely. The “Manifesto for a Post-materialistic Science” is one of them. Launched in 2014 and with signatures of scientists of all horizons, it says that the idea that matter is the origin and the organizer of the Universe is only a presupposition, not a “scientific truth”, because it has never been proven. For post-materialist science, much of what is now regarded as anti-scientific because it does not fit the materialistic assumption, would become perfectly understandable and scientific if one start from the premise that consciousness is the basis of everything.
Other manifestos, other research papers, other articles and books have been published, new research Institutions open to the new paradigms have been created, most of them outside the Universities, which at the moment are, in general, guardians of the old paradigm. One reason for this is that their teachers have been educated in it and are not willing to question it for fear of criticism from colleagues. But time does not stop and the new always comes. Helping this to strengthen is a challenge for those who have the courage. It has always been so, and Descartes and Newton, the founders of the paradigm which is now insufficient, were courageous enough in their lifetime to claim that reality was far greater than it was in the narrow tenets of religion. May the science now held to be true not become as dogmatic as the religions were which were imposed only on the basis of authority. Maintaining the investigating spirit of science, the principle of doubt, valuing of argumentation consistent with the facts, is not in contradiction with the idea that the world and the human experience are much wider than materialist science thinks.